Sometimes this life is unpredictable and presents us with unexpected challenges. We believe that we are headed in one direction and, before we know it, something or, in the case of Judy and Jerry Horton someone arrives on the scene and our lives are changed forever. Judy and Jerry were reflecting on the onset of their “empty nest” years when Judy found out she was pregnant. Several months later Kelly Page Horton arrived. She was a healthy, beautiful baby with Down Syndrome.
Since Judy and Jerry spent most of their working years at colleges and universities, they were very adept at research. So the search began for answers. The same questions that all parents of children with Down Syndrome face: she’ll be safe and secure at home, but what will she do when she grows up? What about friends? Education? Work? How can we meet all of her needs? Who will pay for her care?
This was the beginning of a remarkable journey for the Horton’s and the birth of the Down Home Ranch. They decided, with the help of friends, clergy and the community, to build a working farm and ranch for people with disabilities. This would be a place of love and opportunity, the best hope for Kelly’s future life. They envisioned a place where residents could enjoy
freedom to study, visit friends, learn, train and join in a variety of activities.
Down Home Ranch is a residential facility and working farm and ranch. Forty adults and children live year round on the ranch caring for 330 beautiful forested acres of Post Oak Savannah in Central Texas. The 32 Ranchers and 30 staff and family members tend animals, raise food and celebrate the seasons of life together. Although the ranch has become the old-fashioned community that was always envisioned since the very beginning, it is not an isolated community. Residents are welcomed into the surrounding communities and cultures.
There is room for more! Residency is open to persons who: are at least 18 or older and have finished high school; desire to live on a real working Texas ranch; are able to benefit from the residential social, educational and vocational programs offered by Down Home Ranch; and wish to live in close proximity to friends and co-workers on the Ranch. If you are interested in finding out more about residency options and opportunities, check out the web site at www.downhomeranch.org.
When I visited Down Home Ranch, I found the friendships and camaraderie to be overwhelming. The spirit of harmony is amazing. Each camper or resident is a precious individual. Their life choices are respected and honored. There is a remarkable sense of belonging and succeeding. Ranchers may, at some point, decide to move from the ranch and strike out on their own in a nearby community. Perhaps they’ll marry or receive more training and education. With the strong friendships that have been established at Down Home Ranch, horizons are expanded through shared work, play and worship. I found myself bonding immediately with residents and family members. Down Home Ranch was started in a tent and is now a thriving community that has been created for people with Down Syndrome and other developmental disabilities. It is a place where lives are changed. It is a place of complete acceptance where our precious children can develop into valued independent adults. It is Down Home Ranch.
By, Lloyd Lewis
President/CEO, Arc Thrift Stores